Winter Plumbing Problems

Winter is a time to realize that temperatures below zero, high or intense winds, and ice all make for a dangerous time for plumbing.  To avoid burst pipes or frozen water systems, be alert for common issues.

Pipes in Outer Walls

For the sake of convenience, builders will sometimes install plumbing fixtures on the outer house walls.  Without sufficient insulation, when temperatures fall below zero, these pipes can freeze.  This freezing will result in blockages or bursting.

Pipes that are used frequently probably won’t have problems.  However, any pipes during the overnight hours have the potential for damage.

If you are planning a new home build, be sure to discuss this issue with your builder.  Be sure that the pipes have enough space for sufficient insulation and air flow, especially if they are located on outer walls.

Septic Tanks

In order to operate efficiently, septic tanks must be emptied on a regular basis.  This involves digging the area to remove the lid or lids and then emptying the contents of the tank.  If it becomes necessary to perform this operation in the winter, it can become more difficult due to the freezing temperatures, snow cover and frozen ground.

If left unserviced, a septic tank can overflow or the pipes can burst.  This is a messy and expensive prospect.  If it happens in the winter, it may be impossible.  A realistic solution is to have your septic system pumped each autumn.

If you are planning additions to your existing house, consider the impact it will have on your septic system.  Additional bathrooms can overload the system.  In fact, just adding more people to the household can affect the amount of water to be processed.  If you are considering a renovation, be sure to discuss the plans with a reliable plumber to be sure your septic system will accommodate the changes.

Water Heater

Water heaters are appliances that are used year round.  They are especially taxed during the winter.

One of the most common problems is sediment build up.  By flushing the tank on an annual basis, the sediment will be eliminated and reduce the chance of a water heater failure.

Pilot lights can blow out during the drafty winter months.  Power outages or power surges can create a fault within this system.  If you suspect you have an issue, contact a plumber or electrician to have your water heater inspected.

Wintertime is difficult on plumbing pipes and appliances.  It is advisable to have your interior and exterior systems inspected on a regular basis to avoid surprises.  Preventive maintenance of septic tank systems, water heaters, and exterior plumbing including fixtures should be a regular part of your household duties.